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Court rules against anti-gay Christian group’s effort to recall El Paso mayor

Sunday, February 19, 2012
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EL PASO, Texas — A Texas appeals court on Friday ruled against a coalition of anti-gay Christian groups who sought to recall El Paso mayor John Cook and two city representatives after they voted to restore health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees.

John Cook

The ruling by the Eighth Court of Appeals said that the recall group violated the law in its petition drive and ordered the municipal clerk to decertify the recall petitions, instructing that no recall election using them can be held.

The case stems from a November 2010 ballot measure to block same-sex partners of city employees from obtaining health care benefits.

Tom Brown, pastor of the Word of Life Church, organized the ballot measure, but did so without use of an attorney to advise on the verbiage.

The measure, aimed at promoting “traditional family values,” asked voters to limit benefits to “city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.”

So when 55 percent of the voters approved the measure on Election Day, they eliminated coverage for some 200 people who don’t fit that description — among them elected officials, who aren’t technically city employees, and many former city workers, including retired police and fire department employees.

Unless amended or repealed, unions and city officials feared the law could grow to affect at least 10,00 others over the next several years, promoting Cook and city Reps. Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega to vote to restore the benefits.

Brown and his church helped organize the recall effort and invited people there and to other churches to join the petition drive and sign petitions, but the Cook argued that organizers of the petition drive violated a law prohibiting corporations — including nonprofit churches — from making political contributions to recall elections, the El Paso Times reported.

Brown said he would appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

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